Women In Aphra Behn's 'The Rover'

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In Aphra Behn’s “The Rover”, between the categories of virgin and whore lies a void rather than a spectrum. The three leading ladies of the play Hellena, Florinda and Angellica most certainly fall into these categories; Hellena and Florinda being virginal ladies of quality and Angellica being a famous courtesan. These three women attempt to challenge these roles throughout the play. Aphra Behn uses the domination of the men over the women, the objectification of the women and the double standards that exist between men and women to illustrate the impossibility of taking one’s sexuality into one’s own hands, and challenging the assigned roles of the patriarchal society for the female characters in the play. The male characters in “The Rover”…show more content…
However, Florinda does not argue against the marriage to Antonio saying that she “has no defense to Antonio’s love” (879) because the only reason she does not want to be with him is her own feelings, which unfortunately do not account for much. Once their brother leaves, Florinda devises a plan to meet with Belville, in hopes of running away with him. She goes to the carnival in disguise and slips Belville a letter instructing him to come to “the Garden-Gate” (885) at “ten at night.” (885) The fact that Florinda must go to the trouble of disguising herself, sneaking out to a carnival, and slipping Belville a note filled with instructions just to meet with him against her brothers wishes, illustrates just how difficult it was for women to rebel against the men who control their lives. In “The Rover”, Female identity and value are indivisible from female sexuality. There are only three roles a woman can take, and all of them are directly related to a women’s sexuality. Women are classified as either women of quality, or whores, and can either be wives, nuns or prostitutes. Because being a prostitute is not a respectable option, the women of quality in the play are valued far more. In fact many of the men in the play express disgust at the fact that a women would…show more content…
The double standards for men and women regarding sexuality in “The Rover” become especially apparent when looking at the ending of the play. Willmore is an incredibly sexually liberated character. He spends almost the entirety of the play chasing after women. He chases after Florinda in the garden calling her a “fine wench” (903) and chases after her yet again later in the play calling her a “woman of excellent mein,” (924) while also spending the entirety of the play flirting with both Hellena and Angellica. Willmore is a rake figure,wanting “all the honey of Matrimony, but none of the sting,” (900) meaning that he wants sex without commitment. He is inconstancy embodied and both of the women who are interested in him are aware of this. Angellica exclaims that “there is no faith in anything he says” (922) and when Hellena makes Willmore swear never to see any women but her again, she knows that her efforts are futile saying “Now what a wicked creature am I, to damn a proper fellow.” (903) Yet Willmore is not punished for his inconstancy and sexual liberation, in fact he is rewarded with Hellena who is beautiful, a wealthy woman of quality, and “of

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